Pianist Satoko Fujii
and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura
came off a European tour in 2019 and went into the studio in Krakow, Poland, and recorded Pentas
, their seventh duo disc, an effort that joins the Fujii/Tamura pairings How Many
(Libra Records, 1997), Clouds
(Libra Records, 2002), Like In Krakow, In November
(Not Two Records, 2006), Chun
(Libra Records, 2008), Muku
(Libra Records, 2012) and Kisaragi
(Libra Records, 2017).
Freshness and adventurous spontaneity are the trademarks of Fujii's music, whether it's one of her several big bands, her quartet Kaze, her numerous trio affairs, or her particularly intimate solo excursions. But the level of those two attributes rises to its highest arc on her duo recordingswith drummers Ramon Lopez
and Tatsuya Yoshida
, lap-topper Ikue Mori
, keyboardist Alister Spence
, bassist Joe Fonda
and more. And the freedom of expression and a palpable joy of creation afforded by the duo format rises to the next level when she playsjust her piano and his trumpetwith Natsuki Tamura.
Two things set Penatas
apart from the couple's previous duet sets: Onehalf the compositions come from Tamura's pen, whereas Fujii's writing dominated the earlier recordings; and twothese sounds feel more worked out, more polished and lyrical, more approachably beautiful than the music on even the best of its predecessors, Muku
Tamura is a man full of whimsy. His "Itsomo Itsomo" features a section of piano/trumpet call and response reminiscent of a 2008 San Diego concert of Fujii's Ma-Do band, where the trumpeter blew into a spontaneous back-and-forth to the call of the whistle of a passing freight train. "Itomo Itomo" harborsas do many of Tamura's compositions an embedded sense of the absurd amid a strong structural architecture. In addition, there is a seamlessness to the Fujii/Tamura interplay, on a tune that has been worked over and altered and perfected over the course of numerous concert performances.
Fujii's "Not Together" opens the disc with a stop-and-start rhythm and a clipped, precise, crystal clear vision. Fujii can probably be accurately described as an avant-garde artist, but in so many of her duet and solo endeavors that label doesn't seem to fit. An open-minded, open-eared immersion in the likes of Pentas
(Libra Records, 2019), or Solo
(Libra Records, 2018) reveal an artist who creates boundary-less sounds that bring into the light unique facets of a sonic beauty that you've never heard before.
Not Together; Pentas; Wind Chill; Itsumo Itsumo; Stillness; Rising; Rnovation; Circle.